THE US CIVIL engineering sector is booming, the latest economic forecast for the world's largest construction market claimed this week.
FMI's Construction Update predicts a 7.3% increase in civil engineering output this year, followed by a 6.9% rise in 2000.
In stark contrast to the UK, the strongest infrastructure sector in the US is highways, which is predicted to grow by 13.9% in 1999 and 12% next year.
The engine driving this multi billion dollar boom is the TEA-21 legislation, the largest transportation bill ever passed in US law. The act authorises annual expenditure of £30bn for the next six years on highway construction and, in particular, repair. Five years ago, road spending was averaging £23bn.
As with the UK, the US road network suffers from considerable neglect, with nearly 60% of major roads needing significant repair work and 31% of bridges structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
TEA-21 will result in the repair of more than 30,000 lane-kms of highway and the construction of nearly 5,000 lane-kms of additional capacity. New roads totalling 1,200 km will also be constructed by 2003.
Texas leads the way, increasing its road spend by 61% to an annual £1.2bn - as much as is spent on highway construction and repair in the whole of the UK.
Other states dramatically stepping up highway work include: Florida (up 57% to an annual £750M), Pennsylvania (up 47% to £800M), California (46%, £1.5bn) and New York (35%, £850M).